Outgrowing Drake Is the Generation Gap We Didn’t Predict

I was 22 when ‘So Far Gone’ changed music. Now I’m 34, and my life feels different — but Drake hasn’t changed at all

David Dennis, Jr.
LEVEL
Published in
11 min readMay 5, 2020

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Photo illustration. Sources: Vivien Killilea/Getty Images, Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

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I was 22 when Drake’s defining, star-making mixtape So Far Gone hit the internet like a meteor. At 22 years old, swarming Mediafire and Rapidshare links like they were electronics stores on Black Friday morning, looking for the one that still had what I was after. Just 22 years, ringing in Valentine’s Day 2009 in my car, driving around Chicago, listening to So Far Gone. Alone.

I was a year into my career as a music journalist, watching the internet wreaking absolute chaos on the industry. Stars like Wiz Khalifa and B.o.B had already emerged from the new ecosystem, dropping projects online and circumventing the gatekeepers entirely — but we were all still waiting for that one crossover artist for vindication. Someone to prove that the future was online. Someone who could go directly from Datpiff to a household name.

Drake was that messiah, and So Far Gone was that gospel. The album spawned a tour, music videos, Billboard-charting singles. But most importantly, it first showcased the Canadian child actor’s most persistent gift: His ability to tap into and articulate a cultural shift, to make it resonate so loudly that it drowns out everything else. Drake, just six months my junior, was speaking directly to a young twentysomething in the jaws of a once-in-a-lifetime capital-R recession who was balancing hopes and dreams with the prospect of being an unending failure.

He’s a one-man boardroom, assessing the musical and cultural landscape and then building his gleaming high-rise smack in the middle of the hot neighborhood, towering over everyone else’s developments.

In one moment, he’s pleading that “I just wanna be successful;” in another, he’s talking about disappointing his mother while struggling with money (“…she wonder where my mind is, accounts in the minus”). You want…

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David Dennis, Jr.
LEVEL

Level Sr. Writer covering Race, Culture, Politics, TV, Music. Previously: The Undefeated, The Atlantic, Washington Post. Forthcoming book: The Movement Made Us